Imagine being able to control almost every element of your home, from lights and locks to heating and music, directly from your smartphone. It's something that still feels futuristic for many, but the technology is already here (and in homes across the UK).
To transform your home into a smart home, you simply need a smartphone and a handful of smart products. We take a look at how you can put the kettle on while relaxing in bed, or check if you've turned your straighteners off miles away from home.
What is a smart home?
Not entirely sure what the phrase smart home actually means? Before we move on, let's go through the basics.
Essentially, a smart home is a house filled with a selection of tech that can be controlled via an app. You can control smart gadgets manually, use automation to create routines and rules for your gadgets (for example, you can programme lights to turn off as you leave the house) and obtain data quickly from certain objects like smart meters.
The smart tech category is forever expanding, and includes everything from lightbulbs and thermostats to kitchen appliances and smart speakers.
Highly intelligent security
Improve the security of your home, and give yourself peace of mind, using smart tech on your doors and windows.
Ring, for example, offers a smart doorbell system at an affordable price. For £179, you can pick up the Ring Video Doorbell 2, a handy device which enables homeowners to install an intercom system to their front door. The doorbell can be controlled using a smartphone, and it's quick and easy to set up. Just charge the removable battery, screw the doorbell to your wall and connect the device to Wi-Fi via the Ring app.
Once ready, the gadget will detect any movement outside your front door. If someone is there, a notification will pop up on your phone and you can see the view from the camera on your screen. You'll be asked to accept or decline, and if you choose to accept you can even speak to the visitor through the doorbell. It's perfect if you're at work and want to tell your postman to leave your parcel in your back garden, or to keep an eye on your house while on holiday.
Smart sensors are really versatile pieces of smart tech too. Wireless and undetectable, you can attach them to doors and windows around the home. Hive makes great ones, and if you have the Hive app you can check if they're locked and secure no matter where you are.
Even the smallest elements of your home can be improved with smart technology. Smart lightbulbs are created by a range of popular manufacturers, like Philips, Hive and TP-Link, and come in a range of designs, including colourful bulbs.
Like most smart tech, they're also controlled with an app. Switch them on and off with your phone, or put certain lightbulbs on a particular schedule. Not sure if you've left the kitchen light on? You no longer need to get out of bed to check - just pick up your phone instead.
Smart thermostats are becoming increasingly popular in the world of smart home tech, offering a convenient and advanced way to monitor the temperature in your home. Choose a schedule to suit your lifestyle, adjust when your heating turns on and off whenever you like on your phone, and relax knowing that even if you do leave the radiators on full-blast while on holiday, you can turn them off in seconds even if you're on the other side of the globe.
More efficient than regular thermostats, different smart thermostats offer different features. Some offer support for Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit, others work with IFTTT, certain models can track your location and particular thermostats - like Nest Learning Thermostat - are able to learn your habits as you use it, building a schedule automatically to suit you.
Everything but the kitchen sink
Imagine being able to wake up, press a button on your smartphone and have an already boiled kettle ready and waiting for you. Smart kettles can do just that, and they're not alone in the innovative kitchen appliances department.
Nespresso has launched an intelligent coffee machine called Nespresso Expert. Brew the perfect coffee remotely - all you need to do is pop a pod in the machine and put a cup under it before you go to bed or head out. The features don't stop there either, to help you keep your machine in the best condition the app will inform you when it's time to clean and descale, or when you're running out of coffee.
Smart plugs might not sound exciting, but they're a seriously underrated smart gadget. In fact, if you use smart plugs with all your appliances, you can pretty much regulate everything in your house via your smartphone.
Switch them on and off, trigger plugs to turn on when you reach a certain location or set individual plugs on a schedule - you'll be in complete control. Attach smart plugs to lamps, toasters, TVs, irons… the list really does go on. A highly rated smartplug is the Wi-Fi Smart Plug from TP-Link. It's £29.99, and can be voice-activated with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant as well.
Speaking of Alexa and Google Assistant, smart speakers are another wildly popular smart gadget. You can learn more about the most popular smart speakers on the market, here.
Looking for a top-quality smartphone to help you on your smart home journey? Don't forget to check out the latest devices on Mobiles.co.uk.